Vitamin E is one of the most important nutrients humans need to maintain normal functions of the body and get protection from various degenerative diseases. Vitamin E is actually a fat-soluble antioxidant. More precisely, vitamin E is a generic name, which designates a whole family of various antioxidant vitamins. Among many different subtypes of vitamin E, most biologically active is α tocopherol. However, β-, γ-, and δ-tocopherols, 4 tocotrienols, and several stereoisomers may also have important biologic activity. As any other fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E is stored in the body. A normal healthy diet provides more than enough vitamin E, and the deficiency is extremely rare in otherwise healthy people.
Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin E deficiency usually manifest as a series of various neurological problems, due to poor nerve conduction. Patient may experience neuromuscular problems like spinocerebellar ataxia and myopathies. Peripheral neuropathy, caused by low levels of vitamin E, usually affects the arms, hands, legs and feet. The patients may feel pain, tingling and loss of sensation in the affected parts of the body.One of the important roles of vitamin E is to support the formation of red blood cells and prevent blood clotting. Any kind of vitamin E deficiency is, therefore, associated with anemia. Anemia also occurs due to oxidative damage to red blood cells. Infants born with very low birth weight may also be deficient in vitamin E. Children who have a severe vitamin E deficiency since the birth and are not treated with vitamin E rapidly develop neurological symptoms.
Causes of vitamin E deficiency
Vitamin E deficiency is extremely rare in developed countries. Unfortunately, it still affects people in developing countries, due to fat malabsorption. As any other fat-soluble vitamin, vitamin E dissolves only in fat. People who eat very low-fat diets are at increased risk of developing vitamin-E deficiency.
Vitamin E deficiency sometimes occurs with digestive system problems where nutrients are poorly absorbed from the digestive tract. People with pancreatic disease, gallbladder disease, liver disease, and celiac disease, are at an increased risk of developing vitamin E deficiency. People with Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, or an inability to secrete bile from the liver into the digestive tract, may eventually develop vitamin E deficiency. These patients may be unable to absorb fat, and they should consult their medical health providers and take water-soluble forms of vitamin E.
Recommended daily intake for vitamin E
The recommended daily intake for vitamin E is modest 15 mg to 20 International Units (IU) per day, for an adult person. Lactating women may need higher dosages, of 19 mg daily.